star42 Asked November 2012

Can anesthesia cause symptoms of dementia?

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If dementia is diagnosed following surgery, will it get better once the anesthesia is out of the system? How long does it take for anesthesia to no longer cause problems in the elderly? Is it possible for anesthesia to remain in the system for a year or two? Surgeon said his reaction to anesthesia was more pronounced because he has underlying dementia. I've been told by a few people that my husband's dementia or dementia like systems could disappear a year or two after sugery, since it's possible for anesthesia to remain in the system for a year or two. I've been told so many things by so many people I don't know what to believe anymore. My husband does appear fairly normal at times, but anyone who works with him in assisted living say that he displays signs of sundowner syndrome in the evening. He is determined that one way or the other, he is not going to be staying in A.L., he now wants to see a psychiatrist to prove there is nothing wrong with him, even though A.L. staff, family doctor, therapists, etc. insist he needs A.L. Many times he has informed me that a friend is picking him up and taking him to a ball game or that he has been asked to be in involved in a charity auction at a service organizaiton and needs a ride. When I call to confirm it, I am told that simply is not true. I'm not comfortable thinking of him coming home, since he can not be trusted; told me if he came home, he would buy another car and drive it, spend money just like he used to, live his life just as he did prior to all of this. (his driving is extremely dangerous).

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marylynn1 Jan 2016
At age 78, my dad was on 5 medications for his heart and for his prostate. He seemed very confused and had issues feeling constipated. We took him to emergency where they initially diagnosed a 'raging' urinary tract infection and on further examination, his bowel had 'twisted over on itself' blocking his ability to go to the bathroom. His confusion, they said, was related to the UTI. He had emergency surgery to repair his bowel but once the anesthetic wore off he was completely delusional. The hospital continued to suggest this was 'normal' (by the way, the hospital food they brought him was so bad that we banned them from feeding him and we brought in all his food from home). He was completely 'gone' mentally and thought he was in a movie, being persecuted, the hospital staff were out to get him. He also saw bugs and would only calm down when a family member was with him. We were there nearly around the clock and when we weren't, they often strapped him down so he would not 'escape'. He also ripped out his catheter, got more of an infection and then contracted pneumonia. After two weeks with zero improvement, we were able to get him off a number of drugs and also brought in neurofeedback - he did 6 sessions - 6 days in a row - and after a week, he was 'normal enough' to come home to my place. Another week and another 6 sessions and he was back in his own condo and independant again. He never was fully as good as he was before the surgery, but my understanding after some research is that the more drugs you are on prior to anesthetic, the higher the risk for delusional outcome. Now, a year and a half later, he is still not the man he was prior to this surgery and anasthetic, but he is able to be independent. We have completely changed his diet and are now embarking on a new path with an orthomolecular practitioner to see if that might help even more. Diet has been a huge part of his recovery - no sugar, no dairy, very little gluten. Lots of proteins, organic fruit and veggies that our family prepares for him.
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Sunnygirl1 Jan 2016
Ggjj11,
I would encourage you to locate a place where you mom can get care. There are places for people in all the stages of dementia. Many dementia patients display the symptoms you describe. There are private pay places and if she cannot pay, you can apply her for Medicaid. Either way, I would seek assistance for her, so you can take care of yourself.
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Ggjj11 Jan 2016
My89 year old Mombroke hip, had anesthesia. Before this she was getting forgetful and anxious living alone. Right after surgery nose dived into delusions, fear, angry, thinking the nurses were trying to kill her, thought these people were evil and not to be surprised if they killed her. I am only child 69 years old had 3 cancer surgeries in last 5 months. Have more possible surgeries coming up. No where to put Mom. Don't know what to do with her. Stressed is so not the word
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Errett Oct 2015
Yes, teaka, you are totally correct. So glad my husband has improved but vow to never allow it again, even if I have to always have in home private health care.
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teaka123 Oct 2015
My mom was never the same after having anesthesia for a cochlear implant. When I posted on this site asking for pro/con advice one responder said that anesthesia could have a big impact on her at her age (89). They were right. We will try to avoid any anesthesia for my MIL. The brain reawakens as it were at a much slower slower rate.
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Midkid58 Oct 2015
Wow--this hits too close to home. I'm going to answer this b/c my DIL is an anesthesiologist and we have discussed this more than once. General anesthesia is very tricky, esp in the elderly. It CAN cause long term anxiety, depression and a lot of other unpleasant s/e....in me, a healthy 59 yo, I had 2 major surgeries this year (yuck). I was OK after the first one (back surgery) then had to have a 2nd surgery 4 months later on my foot. I began to suffer almost immediately from horrible panic attacks, depression, inability to think straight and suicidal ideations....luckily, this had happened many years ago when I had gallbladder disease and had my gallbladder out. I went BACK on an antidepressant and within a few weeks felt more "normal". I have also started seeing a therapist (this is an ongoing thing for me, so not really due to the post op depression). Her take was that under anes. our brains literally "reset" them selves and depression/anxiety/foggy thinking is not uncommon. I hope to NEVER have general anesthesia again. My mother loves surgery, she's planning to sneak a hip replacement in sometime this year and she cannot have an epidural. Every time she has a surgery, she becomes a little more "out of it". Her last surgery, I noticed she was NOT herself for almost a year. Her sense of taste changed--weirdly. She is more childlike and lot more angry with some of us. She's a little better--but not much. She's 85. In truth,
anesthesiologists do their "job" and don't follow up with patients, long term.
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Errett Oct 2015
Yes, it can. However, it only exacerbates an underlying problem. If you are lucky things normally return to normal within a few weeks.
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Gorlin Oct 2015
I have to agree with many of those who responded. My husband showed signs of deminished capacity but was certainly functioning independently. Within 2 years he had 3 back surgeries, a broken rib and hernia surgery. His decline was very noticeable and though his body healed...he never mentally recovered. He was diagnoses with dementia/Alzheimer's and it has been a steady, rapid decline,

I was told that it was exacerbated by his anesthesia. We r convinced that he had underlying symptoms that were not tested prior to his surgeries. Looking back, if I had known, We would have to make a choice of permanent severe pain or the possibility of advancing his condition. Quality of life is deminished either way.

It is not easy
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Errett Oct 2015
Not sure how to tell Reverseroles that I really appreciate the post. Yesterday went fairly well but this morning the BP was really high and the BP meds seem to make the confusion worse. Have several dr. appts for his this week and our son is coming We live in south Florida and our son in NC. A long trip but we will do as much as we can to always keep him at home. Today Jim decided he really likes the caregivers (that he thought were here to get rid of him earlier in the week). We must do what we can. I had a Mother who had Parkinson's and dementia 10 years ago and her Dr. suggested putting her in an assisted living facility. We did and I have regretted it. Won't do this as long as possible. For better or worse, in sickness or health we have been together 52 years.
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So sorry to hear about your husband. Anesthesia does cause a person to decline in most cases, happened to my Mom also after a 5 way bypass and hip surgery. You did what you thought was best and trusted the doctors. I also too my Mom home because she was going to get the best care possible. I felt if her head was happy, she would get better. She did, she not only walked again, she danced. Give him time and lots of love and hope for the best. Btw, its been 13 years since my moms heart surgery and 8 since her broken hip. She did great but had a stroke which took her voice and legs eventually. I still have her with me, still love her, and here she will stay.
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